103 years ago, humanity faced the threat of the 1918-1919 flu pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population and left a fatal toll of up to 50 million people, some 675,000 of whom died in the USA. Few remember the American president of that time, Woodrow Wilson, for having led the country in those dark times.
But if President Joe Biden succeeds in getting the country through the COVID-19 pandemic and further enforces his massive $ 3 trillion infrastructure plan, it is highly likely that the history books will credit him as the political leader who managed to save the country from health chaos and an economic crisis.
Of course, that does not mean that the honorable mention in the encyclopedias of history is assured. Although Biden has decided that fighting the pandemic and boosting the economy are the two highest priorities of his administration, the outcome depends largely on factors beyond his control: the sanitary regulations of the 50 states of the country, and individual behavior of more than 300 million residents of the United States.
Now, a little over a year after the first cases identified in the United States, and despite the fact that more than 143 million doses of the vaccines have been administered, in the last week there has been an increase of 12% in cases nationwide, despite a systematic increase in eligibility for vaccination. Only one state, Michigan, reported a 57% rise in new cases and a more than 47% spike in hospitalizations.
As for the infrastructure plan of the White House, its architecture reflects two well-defined areas. The first building houses traditional initiatives to spark investment and job creation in roads, bridges, transportation, Internet access, and green energy. The second contains social programs on how to guarantee monthly aid to low-income families and free access to public community colleges, among others.
The strategy is more or less clear: The White House and the Democrats would seek a bipartisan consensus to build the first building and, if necessary, they will overwhelm the Republicans to approve the construction of the second social policy building, just as they did to approve the massive relief package for the COVID-19 pandemic, through the legislative reconciliation process that requires only a simple majority in the Senate.
Of course, the big question is how a massive infrastructure package is to be financed without generating new debt. The answer is more or less clear: with a tax hike, especially for the wealthiest companies and families. The White House has made it clear that no family with incomes less than $ 400,000 a year should expect an increase in their federal taxes.
If President Biden manages to close that health and economic clamp, the least important thing will be his name in the history books, but rather having managed to avoid a catastrophe of historic proportions and have created the conditions to alleviate the inequality and poverty that have been deepened by the pandemic. It is a moral debt that we must all help pay off.
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Photo Credit: La Red Hispana